By Jaymie L. White
Special to Wreckhouse Press
PORT AUX BASQUES – Geocaching is a recreational activity that takes place outdoors while using GPS, and with hundreds of caches across Newfoundland and Labrador, there are plenty of opportunities for people to get involved. Rebecca LeRiche said it is really like a treasure hunt using modern GPS instead of a map to find a cache.
“What you do is you find the treasure, and it could be just a logbook where you leave your name. Sometimes it’s a little lockbox. Some of them are puzzle treasures where you have to complete a whole puzzle in order to be able to find the geocache, and sometimes it’s a little box where you take a little treasure and put a little treasure back. We would save all the kids’ stuff from Kinder eggs and loot bags, little plastic things like army men.”
In order to keep a log of the caches you have completed, LeRiche said you have to make an account online, and the app she recommends, which she thinks is most user-friendly and offers the clearest map with easy-to-follow coordinates is C:GEO.
“You have to use a geocaching app. There are a ton that run off the mapping system, and to use any of them I think you have to sign up on geocaching.com, which is free unless you want to pay for premium which opens up other caches, but you don’t really need that for here because the majority of them are the free ones.”
LeRiche said there is usually a digital logbook to complete as well as a logbook within the cache itself.
“You always go online so you can mark that you found it, what kind of condition it is in, and you leave a little blurb about it. Sometimes you might just see the word TFTC which means ‘thanks for the cache’.
LeRiche said caching is not about meeting up and going in large groups, but it’s more something you do on your own or with your family.
“You’re almost like an anonymous person when you’re caching. We do it as a family, but there are quite a few geocachers here in Port Aux Basques. Some of them have geocaches set up. A lot of the time you will just see their name because they were there before you.”
LeRiche and her family have two of their own caches that they maintain for others to locate and enjoy.
“We placed a geocache up above our land here and we placed one down in Margaree, so we often see lots of people going up there. And sometimes they’re going up there to walk their dogs, but most of the time they are going up to do geocache. So we see a lot of people just visiting our own, but most of the time – the whole thing with geocaching is that you don’t want to run into other people because it can make you look sneaky or weird – because you are really hunting and sometimes they are so well hidden that you can’t find them or some people have the bad habit of taking something and not putting it back in the same spot.”
LeRiche said there are also times when you find a geocache that is broken and that’s why you have the app, so you can notify the owner of the cache’s condition.
“It’s called a maintenance request. We usually do ours once in the spring and once in the fall. It’s on top of the hill. It gets pretty bad weather up there. The one down in Margaree usually doesn’t have much maintenance problems.”
There are quite a few geocaches in Port Aux Basques, the Codroy Valley, and all down the coast. Geocaching brings people to places they might not venture or discover otherwise, beautiful areas that geocachers have carefully chosen. Since it is an outdoor activity, geocaching offers a great way to get outdoors, and this was especially important during lockdowns.
“You get out and get lots of exercise. The problem for me is I couldn’t do geocaching because I’ve done every one on this side of the island pretty much and there’s not very many new ones popping up. There’s not too many I haven’t done, but further up the island there’s so much exploring I could be doing. We used to do try to do at least a few every time we would go to a different town, or to Corner Brook, because they’re everywhere.”
LeRiche has been geocaching since 2012-2013, which is why she doesn’t have very many caches left that she can complete.
“At the time gas wasn’t so expensive either, so it was something free you could go and do with your kids, and it was like a treasure hunt. Your kids really get into it and you get into it as an adult too. It’s very exciting when you find it.”
When making your own geocache, it is important to clearly label the geocache for what it is, because people might not realize what it is if they come up on it accidentally.
“Sometimes kids come up on it, or an adult will find it and open it, take things out of it and leave it there. You’re better off taping a note to it, like we do, telling people it’s a geocache and not to destroy it.”
LeRiche said geocaches are usually located in a particular spot permanently and continuously maintained by the person who put it there. However, if a geocache isn’t maintained for an extended period of time, a ticket can be placed on the site where, if the original owner doesn’t do something with it, you can volunteer to take it over.
For anyone who is interested in becoming a geocacher, LeRiche said there are a few items that every newbie should take with them.
“You need to be prepared for pretty much everything because a lot of areas can be overgrown too – long sleeves, sweaters, just for when you’re hitting the brush. And always bring your own pencil or pen. A lot of the time the pens or pencils in the caches don’t work so you can’t sign the actual cache, and always bring rubber boots because there is always going to be water somewhere. And save all your junk. If your kids bring home Kinder eggs or loot bags, anything like that, save it because that’s what you’ll put in there.”
LeRiche said there is a lot that she loves about geocaching, but her favourite part is the hunt itself. “The finding of the treasure and the harder it is, still being able to find it, that’s where you get your satisfaction. It’s when you walk away and you haven’t found it that you have a moment of disappointment. You ask yourself ‘why do I do this,’ but it’s always worth it anyways because generally they are in really nice places. Further into cities, even if they aren’t the nicest places, they are very interesting.”